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Biden announces U.S. has reached goal of 200 million Covid vaccinations

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Fauci says pandemic exposed ‘undeniable effects of racism’

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ATLANTA — The immunologist who leads the Covid-19 response in the United States said Sunday that “the undeniable effects of racism” have led to unacceptable health disparities that especially hurt African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans during the pandemic.

“Covid-19 has shown a bright light on our own society’s failings,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a graduation ceremony for Emory University.

Speaking by webcast from Washington, Fauci told the graduates in Atlanta that many members of minority groups work in essential jobs where they might be exposed to the coronavirus. He also said they are more likely to become infected if exposed because of medical conditions such as hypertension, chronic lung disease, diabetes or obesity.

“Now, very few of these comorbidities have racial determinants,” Fauci said. “Almost all relate to the social determinants of health dating back to disadvantageous conditions that some people of color find themselves in from birth regarding the availability of an adequate diet, access to health care and the undeniable effects of racism in our society.”

Fauci said correcting societal wrongs will take a commitment of decades, and he urged the graduates to be part of the solution.

He said that once society returns to “some form of normality,” people should not forget that infectious disease has disproportionally hospitalized and killed people of color.

Fauci on Sunday was awarded the Emory University president’s medal. Previous recipients include former President Jimmy Carter, the Dalai Lama and the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon. In accepting the award, Fauci denounced the destruction of division.

“Societal divisiveness is counterproductive in a pandemic,” Fauci said. “We must not be at odds with each other since the virus is the enemy, not each other.”

He praised the graduates for handling the profound disruption of the pandemic.

“Not since the influenza pandemic of 1918 has humanity faced a public health crisis of this magnitude,” he said. “Each of you deserves enormous respect for your extraordinary adaptability, resilience and dedication to learning, completing your studies and graduating despite immense difficulties and uncertainties.”

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Biden expresses concerns over conflict as Netanyahu defends Israel’s actions in Gaza

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the bombing of a building in Gaza that housed media organizations as U.S. President Joe Biden expressed concerns about the safety of civilians and journalists amid the ongoing violence.

Netanyahu spoke with CBS’s “Face the Nation” after press freedom advocates and others condemned the Israeli military’s airstrike on a Gaza building that housed the offices of foreign media including the Associated Press and Al-Jazeera. The 12-story building was also home to apartments and other offices.

There were no reports of injuries or deaths in the immediate aftermath of the weekend bombing. Israel gave advance warning of the airstrike, which it said it carried out because it had information that Hamas had a military intelligence office in the office, though it has not provided the intelligence publicly.

Asked about that intelligence in his interview, Netanyahu did not detail it but reiterated that a Hamas intelligence outfit was housed in the building.

“So it’s a perfectly legitimate target,” he said. “And I can tell you that we took every precaution to make sure there were no civilian injuries — in fact, no deaths, no injuries whatsoever. Well, I can’t say injuries. I don’t know if somebody received a fragment of a stone. I don’t know that. But no people were killed.”

Efforts to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas ramped up Sunday as at least 188 Palestinians, including 55 children, have been killed in Gaza over the past week, according to figures from its health ministry. In Israel, 10 people have been killed. Hundreds of people on both sides of the conflict have been wounded.

The latest conflict, the most extensive between the two sides since 2014, took hold after tensions flared up last month in and around Jerusalem.

Pressed as to whether his own political position played a role in the escalation, Netanyahu called the idea “preposterous.” The prime minister has struggled for months to form a new government as others seek to unseat him.

“I think anyone who knows me knows I have never, ever subordinated security concerns, the life of our soldiers, the life of our citizens, for political interests,” he said. “That’s just hogwash.”

On broader elements of the conflict, Netanyahu said Israel has a right to self-defense and that Israeli leaders will “do whatever it takes to restore order,” adding that he hopes the conflict ends soon but that it won’t be “immediate.”

Elsewhere on “Face the Nation,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said the U.S. needs “to do everything possible to bring about a cease-fire.”

“I think the administration needs to push harder on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to stop the violence,” he said.

At a meeting of the United Nations Security Council Sunday to discuss the violence, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said the fighting was “appalling” and had wrought “unconscionable death” and immense suffering.

“Fighting must stop. It must stop immediately,” he said.

At that meeting, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the U.S. “calls on all parties to ensure the protection of civilians and to respect international humanitarian law.”

“We also urge all parties to protect medical and other humanitarian facilities, as well as journalists and media organizations,” she said. “We are particularly concerned about protecting UN facilities as civilians seek shelter in about two dozen of them.”

She called the human toll of the conflict “devastating,” adding, “it’s time to end the cycle of violence.”

“We urge all parties to avoid actions that undermine a peaceful future,” she said. “This includes avoiding incitement, violent attacks, and terrorist acts, as well as evictions — including in East Jerusalem — demolitions, and settlement construction east of the 1967 lines. And critically, all parties need to uphold and respect the historic status quo at the holy sites.”

On Saturday, Biden spoke with both Netanyahu and Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. In his conversation with Netanyahu, Biden “reaffirmed his strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza,” according to a White House readout of the call.

“The president noted that this current period of conflict has tragically claimed the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including children,” the readout continued. “He raised concerns about the safety and security of journalists and reinforced the need to ensure their protection. The president shared his grave concern about the violence across the region. He welcomed the statements by the prime minister and other leaders opposing such hateful acts and encouraged continued steps to hold violent extremists accountable and to establish calm.”

According to the White House readout of Biden’s call with Abbas, the two leaders “discussed the current tensions in Jerusalem and the West Bank and expressed their shared desire for Jerusalem to be a place of peaceful coexistence for people of all faiths and backgrounds.”

“President Biden updated President Abbas on U.S. diplomatic engagement on the ongoing conflict and stressed the need for Hamas to cease firing rockets into Israel,” the readout said. “They expressed their shared concern that innocent civilians, including children, have tragically lost their lives amidst the ongoing violence.”

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke Saturday with his Israeli counterpart Benny Gantz. According to the Defense Department, Austin “reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself.”

“He strongly condemned the continued onslaught of attacks by Hamas and other terrorists groups targeting Israeli civilians,” according to the Pentagon readout. “The secretary shared his view on the need to restore calm.”

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a Saturday statement he is “deeply troubled by reports of Israeli military actions that resulted in the death of innocent civilians in Gaza as well as Israeli targeting of buildings housing international media outlets.”

“In response to thousands of rocket attacks fired by Hamas aimed at civilians, Israel has every right to self-defense from terrorists committed to wipe her off the face of the map,” he continued. “But no matter how dangerous and real that threat may be, I have always believed the strength of the U.S.-Israeli relationship flourishes when it is based on the shared values of democracy, freedom, pluralism, and respect for human rights and the rule of law.”

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Cheney says McCarthy and Stefanik are complicit in Trump’s election falsehoods

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Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said Sunday that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and new House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik are complicit in former President Donald Trump’s continued false smear campaign against the election he lost last fall.

“They are,” Cheney told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace, who asked if the two were “complicit.” “And I’m not willing to do that. I think that there are some things that have to be bigger than party, that have to be bigger than partisanship. Our oath to the Constitution is one of those.”

Cheney was voted out of House leadership last week after her continued rejection and refutation of Trump’s false narrative. Stefanik, backed by Trump and other House GOP leaders, was voted in as her replacement to lead the House GOP messaging apparatus.

Republicans from leadership through the rank-and-file said they wanted to stop focusing on the past and move forward with attacking Democratic policies and politicians in the run-up to the 2022 midterms. McCarthy, R-Calif., even told reporters last week he does not “think anyone is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election,” even as Trump has released roughly two dozen statements claiming illegitimacy within the past two months.

This weekend alone, Trump released a series of statements promoting bogus election claims, adding that the 2020 election amounted to the “CRIME OF THE CENTURY.”

In her interview, Cheney said she wished moving on from Trump was possible but that he “continues to be a real danger.”

“What he’s doing and what he’s saying, his claims, his refusal to accept decisions by the courts, his claims continued as recently as yesterday, that somehow this election was stolen,” she said. “You know what he’s doing is, he’s causing people to believe that they can’t count on our electoral process to actually convey the will of the people.”

She added that the “millions of people … who supported the president have been misled, they’ve been betrayed.”

Speaking with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., echoed Cheney in saying Trump is the reason leaders can’t simply move on from last fall. Kinzinger, who like Cheney voted to impeach Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, said Trump is why several House members denied or waved off rioters’ conduct during a hearing last week.

“You cannot on one hand say Donald Trump is a leader, or the leader of the Republican Party — which I believe he is the leader of the Republican Party right now because Kevin McCarthy gave him his leadership card — you can’t say he’s the leader and then say we have to move on,” Kinzinger said. “I would love to move on, but when Liz Cheney, probably on a total of maybe four or five times just simply answered questions that the election wasn’t stolen and then Donald Trump dozens and dozens of times says it is. It’s not Liz’s fault.”

Elsewhere on the program, Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, said it’s not an option “to excommunicate a former president” and that he personally refuses “to go into this sort of black and white thinking about it’s either totally one thing or totally the other.”

“These are complex relationships that involve millions of people,” he said. “And I have always said, I do not think Trump is the devil. And I won’t say that. I don’t think he’s Jesus either. You know, I’m a rational human being about this, OK? And I’m going to agree where I agree and I’m going to disagree where I disagree. And I refuse to allow this drama to engulf us.”

He added there is “no point in relitigating some of these things.”

“I stand by everything I’ve ever said and done,” he said. “And that’s all I can speak for.”

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., echoed Cheney in saying he believes McCarthy would get subpoenaed by a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot. Democrats and Republicans reached an agreement on such a commission last week, and its formation could be voted as as soon as this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said.

Of the House members who continue to try to write off the rioters’ conduct Upton said “It’s absolutely bogus.” On Trump, Upton, who also voted for his impeachment earlier this year, said the former president “continues the big lie about the election being stolen.”

“We’re not going to win unless we add to our base, not subtract from our base,” he said in response to Cheney’s ouster from leadership, which he said left him “very disappointed.”

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